2021 (Virtual) Student Design Conference A Huge Success

This year, AIGA Saint Louis hosted the annual Student Design Conference and successfully transitioned from an in-person to a virtual format. Over one hundred students attended the event from all over the country—from St. Louis area to South Dakota to the East Coast.

Our Keynote speakers Samantha Smugala and Deborah Lee kicked off the weekend with interactive and engaging talks that offered students different perspectives and inspiration. Students were then able to attend workshops, have roundtable discussions with working professionals in their area of interest, and finally, seniors concluded the weekend with portfolio reviews. 

We are so thankful to everyone who was able to come out and join us, and we look forward to next year! And we look forward to seeing everyone again next year—online or in person.

Keynote Speakers

Samantha Smugala gave the first keynote talk of the conference on her new non-profit named Pocket Parks, an initiative to take back unneeded space from cars and buildings to allow more open and usable space for people. She discussed access and distribution of resources, carbon footprint based on zip codes, and the idea of recreating abandoned spaces into something new to activate a community.  Throughout her talk, she asked for input from students on the state of local St. Louis parks, and their opinions on spaces in the area that could be recreated.

Website for pocket parks coming soon: https://www.pocketparks.co/

Samantha has a diverse background in marketing, design, and strategy. With projects ranging from logo design to go-to-market strategies, Samantha has worked across industries in education, healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, and manufacturing. Currently running her own practice, Samantha collaborates with clients to bring ideas into existence through strategy and design.

In addition to Pocketparks, Samantha is also an adjunct professor at Maryville University, committee member of STL Design Week, and Host of CreativeMornings St.Louis.

Deborah Lee joined us for the second keynote session, where they discussed their experience as an illustrator and graphic novel author from college to the present. Deborah talked about how illustration is often more than just creating images and it can sometimes be world building, character design, and very close to animation in the world of graphic novels. They discussed the idea of voice and style in illustration, and how that might change over time.

Throughout the talk, Deborah shared several pieces from throughout their career with us including: an illustrated series on the Life of Pi, Live drawings from the NPR Tiny Desk Concerts, digital product illustrations from LinkedIn, Deborah’s soon-to-be published Graphic Novel, and more.

Deborah Lee is a Korean-American Freelance Illustrator and Graphic Novelist. After working in silicon valley for a while, they have shifted their focus to editorial and publishing illustration. Deborah has worked with clients like: The New Yorker, NPR, PBS, Washington Post, Procreate, and more.


Workshop Sessions

Intro to service Design by Matt Lynch and Jeff Schnelle 

An ultra fast-paced workshop, allowing students to taste the world of UX. Students quickly learned blueprinting of a user experience, how to identify user pain points, and how service design can relate to design thinking.

Freelance in Motion by Michelle Timpone

A workshop that explored the life and business of being a freelancer, as told by a designer, animator and illustrator.  Students were guided through a typical animation/mograph project from start to finish exploring the client relationship, creative process, and the arc of a typical project.  Students were invited to complete some steps in the creative process, before joining the workshop, to enhance the workshop experience.  

With Not For: A Workshop on Community Centered Design by Quinton Ward

A workshop that allowed students to brainstorm local issues that they have experienced, or saw someone experience, and identify a starting point on how they might go about helping solve the problem through design thinking. Quinton taught the students how to start thinking about solutions based on their relationship to the problem by asking themselves questions like “Am I a part of the community who experiences this?” “How can I support people who experience this issue?” 

AIGA Saint Louis Virtual Student Conference portfolio reviews.

Portfolio Reviews

Day two of the conference began with a series of roundtable discussions in which students were about to talk with local professionals directly regarding their particular field of interest. Students got answers to questions about freelancing, setting your own price, finding professional inspiration after you graduate, applying for jobs, portfolio readiness and more.

The conference came to a conclusion with the two rounds of portfolio reviews. All of the students showed up with great portfolios and open minds. Seniors that opted-in to the reviews were haind-paired based on their interests to a professional who could offer them insightful and path specific advice.


Thank you!

Thank you to all who attended this year’s Student Design Conference! It was great to see all of your faces and hear you engaging with everyone over the course of the weekend. This conference could not have been a success without all of you! We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. 

Thank you to all of our speakers, workshop leaders, panelists, reviewers, sponsors, AIGA Saint Louis Board Members, educators, and students for coming out and making the 2021 AIGA Saint Louis Student Conference a success.

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By AIGA Saint Louis
Published April 6, 2021